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How Your Company Can Develop Future Leaders

Posted by Paul Huffman on May 6, 2021

Your company wants to retain top talent and develop them into future leaders. This is closely tied to retention. So how can your company coach its most promising employees and help them grow the skills to lead?

One important piece of advice across the board is to be upfront about it. If there are opportunities for growth at your company, don’t be shy about sharing it with your employees! Take their ideas into account now. Future leaders are already working at your organization if you have the foresight to recognize them. Leadership transitions are a natural and healthy part of every organization. Your company culture should prioritize constant learning between future leaders and current leaders.

Here’s how to develop future leaders that are well-rounded, who have the ability to lead through consensus, and who are prepared to compete in a constantly shifting marketplace.

Give cross-departmental opportunities

The Wall Street Journal recommends allowing employees to rotate between teams and jobs. This can help future leaders gain first-hand knowledge of different departments. Future executives need an intimate understanding of every part of the company.

Give employees the opportunity to get comfortable with discomfort by introducing them to other teams. Put formal development plans in place to create roadmaps for ambitious employees to develop their skills. Not only does this help employees feel engaged and self-motivated, but it also creates a way for people to weed themselves out.

Mentorship and feedback

Offering professional development opportunities along with mentorship is a powerful combination. Future leaders need to feel challenged. They need to feel deeply tied to the company while also being strongly connected to the beating heart of their industry. Provide opportunities for future leaders to interface with industry and then return to the company to apply what they’ve learned.

Give future leaders the chance to grow by providing a structure for mentorship and regular feedback. Great leaders are able to respond to feedback and improve. By pairing promising employees with visionary senior-level leaders, your company can help retain top talent and develop future leaders from within.

Don’t force it

A promising future leader has the ability to self-reflect, execute on ideas, and lead their peers. They embody the brand and values of the company. However, some people just don’t want the job. It’s much smarter for a company to let these people go rather than try to force them to become future leaders.

However, there are circumstances in which an employee can’t keep up with a future leader program through no fault of their own. Perhaps your company’s program is failing to nurture people from non-traditional backgrounds or minority groups. Once you articulate what qualities future leaders need to possess, don’t hesitate to invite any and all candidates to put themselves forward. Then, offer support but let people self-select out.

Talk transitions now

Transitions and successions are a natural part of every company. It’s okay to talk about it now before C-suite leaders make their inevitable departure. Preparation is the name of the game here. Future leaders and current leaders need to establish a healthy working relationship before the transition. This can look like one-to-one mentorship, shadowing, documentation, or inviting promising employees into strategic conversations.

Developing future leaders is just one component of your company’s leadership pipeline. While you prepare your top employees to eventually take the reins, make sure you also encourage the organization itself to innovate and adapt to future market conditions. Your future leaders should not have to rescue your organization from a resentful old guard. Make it easy for future leaders by starting the preparation process now.


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